Things To Do in Amsterdam
I arrived in Amsterdam via plane at the Schiphol airport. There's a direct train from the airport to Amsterdam's central station. There are self-ticketing machines and the ride lasted about 20 minutes.
My friends and I stayed in Amsterdam for two days, and while I long to go back and see more, here are a few of my favorite things to do:
Take a Canal Cruise
The long boats filled with tourists move slowly, and a commentary is provided via speaker or headphones. While the commentary isn't the most exciting, the ride through the canals is a lovely way to get oriented to Amsterdam. There are a few companies to choose from, we went with the Rick Steves' recommended Rondvaart Kooij. It was the cheapest and a short walk from Dam Square.
However, if you're arriving in Amsterdam directly from an overnight flight...I'd hold off on the canal cruise. When you're jetlagged, a slow moving cruise with the sun shining on you just adds to the sleepiness.
See the Work of the Dutch Masters Up Close at the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is about a mile and a half from Dam Square by foot. You can also catch a tram, but the walk is quite enjoyable.
I do like the work of Rembrandt and Vermeer, and I really enjoyed that at the Rijksmuseum, you could get really close to the paintings, with the ability to see brush marks. So fascinating as compared to standing several feet away with the portrait behind glass...
There is a fee to enter and there are fewer crowds in the evenings.
Visit Anne Frank's House
The real site of the Frank Family's hiding place as you read about in Anne Frank's Diary. The house has been converted into a museum and warning...there are a lot of stairs. Prepare yourself. It's an interesting and sobering look into how Jewish families hid during the war years.
There is a fee to enter. You can skip the long lines by buying tickets ahead of time online.
Stroll Through The Red Light District
While I'm not out to promote prostitution, it was a bit of a cultural shock for me to see this neighborhood. Seeing these women in windows, blatantly ready to sell their bodies was uncomfortable, so I kept my eyes mostly down...but it is rather entertaining to people watch here and see other store fronts selling drug paraphernalia.
Stop at the Flower Market
This busy section of Amsterdam sells flowers, bulbs, seeds, and trinkets. Holland is well-known for their ability to grow tulips, and they do sell bulbs that are certified to take back home through customs. I did this, and it was easy and quick.
Eat Some Ethnic Food
While Dutch food such as cheeses and the stroopwafel cookies are some of my favorites, be sure to stop in at one of the many ethnic eateries. Amsterdam has many Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and Surinamese options.
Take a Half Day Trip to Haarlem
Haarlem is a 15 minute train ride from Amsterdam, and it's train station is just a 10 minute walk into the heart of this charming city. Most known for it's Market Square and Grote Kerk (church), Haarlem is also home to Corrie Ten Boom. You may remember reading the book, "The Hiding Place," in middle school that recounts the real life experience of the Ten Boom family that hid Jewish families during World War 2. They were eventually discovered and taken to concentrations camps along with those they were hiding.
Tour times are listed on the door and they'll take you in groups. A donation is appreciated.
Inside Grote Kerk is an impressive organ and there are many cafes and shops lining Market Square.